Diversity in Education: Beyond Marking a Checkbox
Over the last few months, the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) have been occupying many of the conversations in organizations and boardrooms. DE&I went from a necessary evil to a must-have for organizations — if these organizations want to remain competitive in the business environment.
A study from McKinsey (2019) showed that about 75% of leaders and managers consider gender diversity a priority that needs to be integrated into their organizational strategy, while 67% believe that racial diversity should be a priority. Many of them (79%) have begun assigning budgets for DE&I. The CEO of Goldman Sachs declared that they will not help take any company public that does not have one diverse board member, and this number will increase to two in 2021.
In higher education, there is an even greater need for DE&I initiatives. Universities must be able to attract students from different backgrounds, integrate inclusive practices to retain them and provide faculty with the right tools to create learning experiences that involve cognitive diversity and follow best practices in inclusive teaching and learning. A diverse student body will also require that Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) can create psychologically safe spaces where students can be themselves without fear of being criticized. And faculty will need to be able to facilitate difficult conversations while respecting the individuality of each student. In these environments, instructors become mentors and, sometimes, sponsors who can advocate for their students.
It is no longer enough to include a diversity statement on a campus website or syllabi. Our students are expecting us, as educators, to be allies in a world where diversity, equity, and inclusion is a way of being, not a “nice to have” skill. But good intentions are not enough. Faculty are urged to develop skills to build more equitable classrooms. The next question is: who will provide the training? How will institutions identify the things that actually have an impact and distinguish them from those that simply check a box? How will that impact be measured? Only when the right resources are given and the scorecard is populated with diversity, equity, and inclusion measures will we be able to say that an organization is truly committed.